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No D-Word In Corrupt N Orleans Article

From the DNC’s Reuters:

Fighting corruption is hard going in New Orleans

By Nick Carey Thu Aug 14

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Ask the man assigned to combat corruption and bureaucracy in New Orleans how the fight is going and he will tell you about his telephone problems.

I started last September and they only switched my phone lines on two weeks ago,” said Robert Cerasoli, New Orleans’ first-ever Inspector General in a recent interview. “Everything has been a battle since, everything has been a fight.”

Cerasoli was appointed by an independent ethics review board last year to root out graft — in particular as billions of dollars in government aid have flowed into the city following Hurricane Katrina — in a city that has a reputation for corruption spanning many decades.

Office computers were delivered last month but have not yet been hooked up to a secure network. Cerasoli, a former Inspector General for Massachusetts, said he has only 13 staff instead of the 30 he was promised by city hall.

“We really must get up to 37, but with the hurdles of civil service, the difficulty with getting people through the background checks, and just finding qualified applicants, the process has been much slower than expected,” he said.

Cerasoli said either inefficiency or a desire to block his every move has lead to endless problems with the city’s bureaucracy.

“This is Louisiana,” Cerasoli said with a shrug…

“Over the course of many decades Louisiana and New Orleans have earned a reputation as being exceptionally tolerant of corruption,” said Jim Letten, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “This fueled the demise of the local economy as it drove many companies away and kept them away.”

Since his appointment by President George W. Bush in 2001, Letten has indicted 213 state and local officials and private individuals and, he said, convicted “almost 100 percent.”

Those found guilty include former New Orleans city council member Oliver Thomas for bribery and kickbacks in 2007.

Letten says corruption has contributed to declining city education and health standards, rising crime, and a “brain drain” that saw the city’s population decline to 450,000 in 2005 before Katrina from more than 600,000 in the 1960s…

In 2005, the U.S. Justice Department formed the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force to combat fraud associated with billions of dollars in government aid allocated for victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

In a Sept 2007 report, the task force said it had charged 188 people in Louisiana with fraud or corruption since Sept 2005…

When recovery efforts after Katrina exposed both corruption and inefficiency, the city responded by creating the office of Inspector General and hired Cerasoli in September 2007.

The office of Mayor Ray Nagin said the Inspector General’s problems were part of a city-wide lack of funds and staff rather than any effort to thwart its mission.

“We have some issues with corruption and bureaucracy, but no more than any other urban environment,” Dr. Brenda Hatfield, chief administrative officer for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, said, adding the city had been forced to halve its pre-Katrina workforce so creating a new office posed funding challenges.

Meanwhile, the state has passed an ethics reform bill that mandates financial disclosures for most state and local officials and forces lobbyists to report spending aimed at public officials.

“We have promised an end to corruption and incompetence in state government. Make no mistake about it. This is a massive first step,” said Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, said after signing the law in February. …

How considerate of Reuters to avoid any and all mention of party affiliation, since all of the figures involved are undoubtedly Democrats.

The one exception being the newly elected Republican, Governor Jindal.

Also, any article about the corruption in New Orleans that does not mention the scams run by the Veterans For Peace and their pals is immediately suspect.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, August 14th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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